If you're remotely interested in the David Irving/free speech debate, Daniel Finkelstein has a good article in today's Times. Meanwhile, the Times also reports that the Austrian prosecutors are seeking to have Irving's jail sentence extended. Which statement I was tempted to put an exclamation mark after.
Well, I think it's all perfectly simple. David Irving is a fruitcake. He's been known to be a fruitcake, in the UK at least, for several decades, and has been treated as such. Since he's a historian, of sorts, he's been dealt with by professional historians, in recent times most notably by the American Deborah Lipstadt (who has a blog, by the way).
But three years in the slammer for having a peculiar interpretation of the facts? Hellfire, on that basis we should all be in the clink. Lisptadt has a more valid point when she says (on her blog) that there may be an element of perjury in Irving's testimony to the Austrian court, and that judges take a dim view of being jerked around.
Irving's books do at least serve one useful purpose. They demonstrate to those training in history that the same facts, more or less, can give rise to widely different interpretations. Fifty-odd years ago, when I entered the History Remove (yes, it really was called that, but we didn't have a fat owl), our teacher ordered us to read two short books about Luther. One book portrayed him more or less as a second son of God, sent down to end the corruption of the Roman Catholic church and to show us all the way to salvation; the other book portrayed Luther as the son of the devil, leading countless souls to perdition, and, incidentally (and coincidentally in terms of today's discussion) giving rise to rabid anti-semitism and leading directly to the rise of Hitler.
Same historical facts, different interpretations. Our shoolmaster made the point that it was up to each student of history to weave his way through the undergrowth and to try to discern the truth. But he didn't mention anything about three-year jail sentences.